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Oracle’s America’s Cup team reveals details about Larry Ellison’s pricey obsession with sailing

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

Larry Ellison is known as the founder and chairman of software company Oracle (ORCL), but he’d probably argue that his true passion is sailing. And he has a lot on the line at this weekend’s Super Bowl of sailing, America’s Cup.

There are six teams — each sailing on behalf of a home country: Emirates Team for New Zealand, Land Rover for Great Britain, Artemis Racing for Sweden, Softbank Team for Japan, Groupama Team for France, and defending champion Oracle Team for USA. The teams are competing on New York’s Hudson River in Battery Park City, vying for points that will count toward the final round of the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda in 2017.

Ellison, who is reported to be worth around $48 billion, spent a total of $115 million on Oracle Team USA’s victory in 2013, and the team’s skipper Jimmy Spithill says Ellison has been an integral reason for the team’s success. “Larry has been a good mate of ours for a long time. I’ve raced against him and with him. He’s won a few world titles in his day; he’s a great teammate and I’m looking forward to seeing him this weekend,” Spithill told Yahoo Finance.

As a true fan and participant of the sport, Ellison involvement goes beyond just being the money guy, Spithill says: “He’s definitely involved, no question. He’s a real natural athlete, he loves competing, and is a huge fan of sailing. Obviously he has quite a busy day job but he’s definitely all over it when he gets down here.”

British watchmaker Bremont is the official timer for America’s Cup as well as Team Oracle USA’s official partner. Bremont CEO Nick English says he clinched the deal with Ellison directly. “[We] got a call to meet him at his house in Malibu and had a great couple hours chatting about what we would be doing together — so it’s very much a partnership with him,” he says.

In addition to English’s own personal interest in sailing — he and his brother and lived on a boat for a year and sailed around the world — he says Bremont’s brand and image aligned perfectly with America’s Cup. Bremont “is very much about adventure and the engineering that goes into the watches themselves,” says English.

The event is free to the public, and tens of thousands of spectators are expected to watch. It’s also the first time in nearly a century that the tournament will return to New York Harbor. It was held in San Francisco Bay in 2013. (America’s Cup events aren’t held every year. The next one is slated for 2017 in Bermuda.) With inclement weather conditions expected in New York, the teams are facing a lot of pressure.

Spithill says the water in the Hudson is definitely colder than what the team is used to, but after spending hours practicing this week, they’re ready to defend the title. “We’re feeling good,” says Spithill. “Anyone can win on any given day; they’re competitive teams. We do have the best guys in the world here and it really comes down to who can pull it together on Sunday.”